Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
7 things worth knowing today. Also, how to start a business from a Craigslist ad, and make almost $1 million/year.
Just for the heck of it, let’s do things in reverse order today, and see how it goes.
7 (other) things first, then …
The daily feature. Today I’ve got a fun interview that I did with Judi Henderson, a 65-year-old entrepreneur who launched a business 20 years ago after serendipitously coming across an opportunity on Craigslist.
7 things worth knowing today
Apple has accelerated plans to shift some of its production outside China, The Wall Street Journal reports, telling suppliers to plan for Apple products to be manufactured elsewhere in Asia, particularly India and Vietnam. (WSJ)
OpenAI, perhaps best known for its DALL-E image generator, which can produce imagery from text prompts, has opened up public access to ChatGPT—a chatbot that lets you test, explore, manipulate, harass, and generally fiddle around with the latest in “conversational” AI. Lots of amazed reviews on this one. (NY Magazine)
A major power outage in North Carolina that left almost 40,000 people in the dark on Saturday night was caused by “intentional vandalism” at numerous substations, police said. (Daily Beast)
A bipartisan group of senators plans to attach significant marijuana legislation to "must-pass" year-end bills, Axios has learned. The proposals would allow cannabis companies to access banking institutions, and creating grants for state expungement of past marijuana convictions. (Axios)
From chicken wings to used cars, inflation begins to ease its grip. Actually, this stat jumped out at me: The cost of sending a standard 40-foot container from China to the U.S. West Coast is $1,935—down more than 90 percent from its September 2021 peak of $20,586, according to the online freight marketplace Freightos. (WashPost)
The government of El Salvador sent 10,000 soldiers and police to seal off a town on the outskirts of the nation’s capital Saturday to search for gang members. The operation was one of the largest mobilizations yet in President Nayib Bukele’s nine-month-old crackdown on street gangs that long extorted money from businesses and ruled many neighborhoods of the capital, San Salvador. (AP)
Meet Jimmy Donaldson, aka Mr. Beast, the most-followed YouTuber on the planet, king of wildly profitable G-rated fun, on track to make $112 million in 2022 and possibly become the world's first YouTube billionaire. (Forbes)
A colleague told me about Judi Henderson, founder of Mannequin Madness.
Not to get all Renee Zellweger on you, but they had me at “most successful used mannequin business in North America.” (I had no idea there would be such a thing.)
Judi launched her business after coming across a Craigslist ad, and it makes just under $1 million a year in revenue. I also appreciated that she was a first-time entrepreneur in her 40s, and she’s still running and growing the business now.
Here's Judi Henderson in her own words, plus the full video of my interview with her at the end.
by Judy Henderson as told to Bill Murphy Jr.
Prior to starting the business I was working at a dot-com in California. That closed down after September 11, 2001, so I was looking for a side hustle.
I found an ad [on Craigslist] from a guy looking to sell a mannequin, and I'd always wanted to put a mannequin in my backyard and decorate it with mosaic tiles. It turned out that he had a business renting mannequins in the San Francisco Bay area.
He was looking to sell his whole inventory because he was leaving the area. And that's how Mannequin Madness was born.
We started as a mannequin rental company out of my house. I had mannequins in my basement, in my garage and in my backyard under tents. That worked for the first couple of years. I was in a mixed-use neighborhood which means I was allowed to do commercial business out of my house.
This was the early days of the Internet, and I learned that people would call big department stores like Macy's and ask to rent mannequins. So, the first thing I did was go around to all of the retail stores in the area, introduce myself to the visual merchandising department, and tell them that I rented mannequins. Those stores were happy to send those customers my way.
That led to my first “ah-ha” moment. One of the visual merchandising people I talked with told me that their store was throwing out their mannequins because of a remodel. They asked if I'd be interested in taking the old mannequins off their hands. I certainly was!
That's how I grew my inventory from 50 mannequins to 500 mannequins in the first six months. The larger inventory allowed me to start selling mannequins as well as renting them.
I applied for a contest that Wells Fargo offered, where they were acknowledging Black-owned businesses; you won $5,000 in cash. It came down to me, who was a fairly new and still home-based person, and a much bigger traditional business, and I won.
I hate to say it, but I needed that outside validation first, to then start changing my mindset about how I saw myself.
By 2004 I had so much inventory I had to get a location off site to manage it all. That's when I started looking at Mannequin Madness as a real business.
And, in 2010, the business expanded again when a major retailer asked me to help them upcycle their mannequins nationwide.
I didn't want to tell them no, but I didn't really have the infrastructure to do it. So I thought about the problem and realized that I could actually work with my competitors to create a win-win situation.
What happens is, say there's a store in Minneapolis that wants to get rid of mannequins. They contact me, and then I contact a local used mannequin store in the area. The local store picks up the mannequins, and I get a brokerage fee.
I'm 65 years old, but I felt older when I was at a job that I hated; I'm now doing something I love to do. But, because most of my business was Internet based, no one knew what I looked like. No one knew that I was a woman, or a woman of color, or even where I was located.
That gave me an advantage. I could be ageless, nameless, faceless on the Internet.
Recently, I have felt a little bit more comfortable saying I'm a woman of color, because that's kind of like, the little buzzword that's out right now. No one likes to feel like someone's giving you your business just because of your age or your race, but since they're actively trying to do business with people of color, I put that out there.
But, for the first 15 years, you'd have to really dig to see who was the owner of Mannequin Madness.
When COVID hit our business had to pivot. Our local store shut down. But necessity is the mother of innovation and we started making headdresses out of flowers and zip ties we had around using mannequin heads. It turns out people loved them, and asked to buy them.
Now we invite people to come into the store and make their own. It's our version of the popular "paint and sip" phenomena.
The wonderful thing about mannequins is they are a fun, creative way to celebrate the human body. It's really fascinating the number of creative projects people come up with in relation to them.
I'm grateful that there has been such a focus on small businesses and especially small businesses run by minorities. Representation in society is important. If I had seen more women of color business people in my community, I think I would have considered myself an entrepreneur much sooner.
If you’re interested in the interview behind the scenes, here’s my full interview with Judi: